Watering in our Winter Wonderland
The cool season brings with it the renewal of the mind and body—gone are the long, hot summer days, at least for the foreseeable future. So what better time to get out into your yard and examine the state of your irrigation system? As Water Conservation Specialists, we often see overwatering of the landscape in the winter months. Plants simply do not need as much water in the winter as they do in the summer!
Saving Water = Saving Money
But wait—there’s an added bonus to not overwatering your yard in the cooler weather. On your Town of Gilbert utility bill each month you’ll see a sewer rate. The sewer rate is calculated by taking 70% of your average water use billed for the months of January, February, and March. Because we don’t install separate meters to measure your indoor and outdoor water use, this is how we calculate the amount of water used indoors and therefore the amount of water your household sends through the sewer lines. By reducing your outdoor water use during these months, you might be able to lower your sewer rate as well. Click Here for more information.
What’s the right way to water?
Think longer irrigation events, but less often. In the clay soils of the Sonoran desert, it can take a while for water to sink in to the soil (and adequately water plants’ roots!). This is why we suggest running your drip and sprinkler systems for longer periods of time. However, our clay soil does a great job of holding on to that water once it is saturated, hence why you and your plants can go longer in between irrigation events!
If you can start to shift your watering away from the common every day schedule, you may be surprised at the amount of water you can save, as well as the healthier looking plants that result. Plants can become yellow and fail to flower when they receive too much water.
The best part about all this is that once you determine how long to water the plants in your landscape, when the temperatures creep up and you want to start giving your landscape more water, you don’t need to adjust the length of time you water. All you need to adjust is the days in between watering. By only adjusting the frequency of your irrigation events, you ensure that plants always receive the amount of water needed to saturate their root zones underground!
If you plan on making some changes to your irrigation schedule on your controller, we highly suggest you read Landscape Watering by the Numbers first. It provides you with step-by-step instructions on how to properly water your plants, based on YOUR irrigation system. We can mail you a copy, or you can download the PDF. If you want a copy mailed to you, click here, or call us at (480) 503-6098.
If this article got your wheels turning on the issues facing your landscape, we offer free residential landscape classes every fall and spring at the Southeast Regional Library. Check out the upcoming Spring 2014 workshop schedule.
In addition to the classes, the Town offers free residential water audits to Gilbert residents. To schedule an appointment, call (480) 503-6098.
Question: If I water my grass for longer, as you suggest, won’t it all run off into the street?
Answer: It most certainly can, yes, and we don’t want to see that! The way to get around this problem is twofold. Because you will be watering less often, your soil will not be constantly saturated like it is when irrigated 6 or 7 days a week. Therefore, when you do water, your soil should be able to soak up the water that is applied to it (and not run down the street).
Second, you can utilize what we in the water conservation world like to call “cycle and soak.” Basically, by using the multiple start times available on your irrigation controller, you can water for longer, but you break up the irrigation events into smaller chunks throughout the morning. For instance, if you determine (with the Landscape Watering by the Numbers guide mentioned above) that you need to water for 24 minutes to adequately saturate your turf’s root zone (about 8- 10 inches deep), you can use 3 different irrigation start times to run each irrigation cycle for 8 minutes. It could look something like this:
- Run one 8 minute irrigation cycle on a Monday at 3 AM. Then wait about an hour to allow the water to soak in.
- Run another 8 minute irrigation cycle at 4 AM on the same day. Wait another hour.
- Run the final irrigation cycle at 5 AM on the same day.
Multiply 8 minutes by the 3 irrigation cycle start times and you get that needed 24 minutes—without flooding the street or watering the sidewalk.